Genny: Howdy, marketers, welcome back to season three of SEO unfiltered. Rather than giving you the usual preamble about how important my life is, let’s just jump right into the topic, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover today. Well, at least it feels like a lot because we have no guests for today’s episode.
The topic for this month is Things we wish marketers knew about SEO tools. And what I mean by that is the tools like SEMrush, Yoast, SERanking, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, and not to mention the bazillion new AI content tools out there. These are all widely available to marketing teams and all perform various SEO functions.
From keyword generation, to technical checkpoints, to backlink monitoring. Tools can be great for marketers who don’t really have the time or resources to go deep down into the SEO rabbit hole. If understood and used correctly, tools can be used to churn out decent content and ensure a site is technically sound.
But let’s not forget that a tool is only as good as the person wielding it. That is to say that it’s really a… Interesting, when we come across marketers who equate SEO tools with SEO knowledge. But ladies and gentlemen, hitting all green lights on your Yoast plugin does not a full technical SEO audit make.
Many of these popular tools have distilled SEO down to its most basic components to help non SEO experts do what they can to increase their chances of ranking without A, having to learn SEO, and B, having to hire someone to do it. In order to hit that sweet spot, however, these tools need to be easy to use and understand, which means that over time, the small bits of information the tools feed us become the A and Z of SEO, the whole scope of search engine optimization, the whole hog.
We’ve spoken to many clients like this over the years, and today we are going to clear the air of these SEO tool misconceptions, myths, and bad habits. So if you’re one of those diehard SEMrush users, keep listening because there are some things we really want you to know. Number one, Google does not give third party tools access to its data.
Which means that SE Ranking, Ahrefs, HubSpot, blah blah blah, and every other tool out there does not have the inside scoop into Google’s algorithms. No one knows what Google is up to besides Google. Kind of annoying because sometimes these big tools make it seem like they’ve been able to crack the algorithm.
Not so much. What we do know about Google Signals is based on rigorous testing from agencies and SEO geeks alike. Google doesn’t update, we notice a page’s rank has dropped or increased, and we investigate. What these tools are doing is scraping and analyzing Google search data and then using that data to predict and estimate what Google is up to, which they synthesize into a marketable service.
Don’t get me wrong, these guys are obviously fairly good at being able to understand Google signals, otherwise no one would buy their tools. Why is it important to know this? Because while your data will usually be close to accurate, it likely won’t match up to your GA4 reports, for example. There are other reasons, which we’ll get into in a moment.
It’s usually not that big of a deal, but it does require a bit of a change in mindset. Because taking tool data as gospel is not really going to help you learn SEO. Especially if you’re new to this whole thing. Number two. Tools tend to focus on one thing and run with it, whereas Google’s algorithms cover a huge spectrum of factors.
That is to say, SEO tools are not comprehensive. They don’t and can’t do all the things, mainly because, like I just said, they are not Google products, but also because, and this is just my guess, They want to make their platforms insightful and helpful to the general population, so of course they’re going to make things like meta descriptions and page speed, things that we can easily wrap our heads around, seem way more important than they actually are.
But they’re kind of not? Well, they are, but not as much as you think they are. For example, even if you spend hours and hours manually entering meta descriptions for every page on your site, most of the time, Google’s just going to choose what it wants to put on the SERP. But the tools make it seem like the difference between Page 1, Result 1, and a Page 10 ranking is just those 150 characters.
Not writing your own meta description means that Google will just choose one for you, and that’s it. And speaking about page speed, we really want marketers to know that page speed isn’t as much of a ranking factor as the tools would lead you to believe for the very simple reason that a slow page load can, a lot of the time, at least for me, be attributed to a shitty internet connection and not the website itself.
While you certainly don’t want to do anything to make your site slower than any other site out there, the fact that network strength is largely to blame for page speed means that maybe it’s not as big of a ranking factor as these tools make it out to be. Number three, over reliance on tools can give you analysis paralysis.
Are you spending all your time staring at and analyzing your data to the point that you’ve lost the will to live? And if not the will to live, then at least the capacity to make any decision relevant or meaningful to your business? Then you may have analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is caused by looking at too much data from too many tools, not knowing which data to trust or how to even interpret it, and almost always guaranteed to make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
Symptoms of analysis paralysis include red eye, confusion, fatigue, burnout, and general feelings of overwhelm and TAS paralysis. If you are finding yourself in the throes of paralytic fugue, it may be time to step away from the tools and remember that sometimes the best thing to do is sit back and see what happens for a couple of weeks.
Of course these tools want to show you as much data as possible, but you probably don’t even need to know the half of it, or at least the graphs you’ve been staring at probably have less bearing on your marketing efforts than you think. Pouring over analytics data from multiple sources is like doing maths homework all day long, and who the hell wants to do that?
It’s no wonder it has the ability to completely debilitate you. So take a break! All that to say, there can be such a thing as having too much data, and sometimes we can be so focused on the nitty gritty details that we can’t even see the forest for the trees. Now, I don’t obviously recommend taking a break from looking at your data all the time, but if you find yourself going cross eyed, then maybe you’ve gone too far.
Drink some water, maybe. Have a rest. Number four, you’re drawing the wrong conclusions from your data. I guess this is kind of important. I’m just as guilty of this as the next guy, but thank god I’ve got an entire team of analytics wizards who can set me straight. Uptrending graphs make us happy, and downtrending graphs make us sad.
Right? Oh, if only it were that easy. But of course it’s not, and rightly so. We need to know how to interpret what we’re looking at before we start drawing the wrong conclusions. Sometimes tools are really helpful at doing this. Sometimes they’re not and what tools do is give you access to data that might make it look like your pages are performing better or worse than they actually are.
For example, you need to understand that ranking on page one for a low volume search term might not be as impressive as ranking on page two for an ultra high search volume keyword. So I guess context is everything when it comes to your data, which brings us to the next point. And that is number five, a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.
Look, I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, and that is that SEO agencies are not the gatekeepers of SEO knowledge. There’s no such thing as an SEO university. Everything we know and every technique we’ve developed over the years is out there for you to learn. And don’t get us wrong, we use the tools I’ve been talking about all episode.
We use them wisely, of course, but we use them. The difference! Is that an agency’s knowledge of SEO exists outside of these tools, and what SE ranking, Yoast, Ahrefs, blah blah blah, all those other things tend to do is give us a myopic view of SEO and make us think that if you can master the tool, you’ve mastered the internet.
Why is a little bit of SEO knowledge dangerous? Because you might just know enough to do something very, very silly, which we’ve seen over and over again, from no indexing pages to trying to rank for the wrong keywords. It happens. We’re not telling you that what you do know is invalid or wrong, but the information that you do have can skew your understanding of your website’s true SEO health.
So please, don’t stop learning because knowledge is power, and while you’re on the road to true SEO enlightenment, why not work with an agency that can help you take your knowledge to the next level? Wink wink. Number six. Common sense trumps tools. Oh, that’s fun to say. Common sense trumps tools. I hate to make it sound like every marketer we’ve encountered is an idiot because that’s really not true.
It’s not that a lot of marketers don’t have common sense, it’s that maybe they don’t trust their instincts? I don’t know. Trust me, you do know more, hopefully, about your business and your customers. than a tool does. What may need cultivation is common sense around keyword research and strategy because that’s not an inherent skill.
Understanding keywords and how they work isn’t rocket science, but it does take practice and experience. So we do sometimes see new and seasoned marketing managers try to rank for the silliest keywords without really considering whether or not those terms are appropriate and if their potential customers are even using those terms to begin with.
Number seven, lucky number seven. Tools aren’t going to automatically make you rank number one. I can’t believe I almost forgot to put this one in here. Folks, like I said, a tool’s a tool. Just because you have the most bougie food processor on the market doesn’t mean you’re a Michelin star chef. They are just aides, guides, digital interns, if you will.
They are not magic and they do not control what happens on Google, and they cannot make your site suddenly more visible to your target audience. SEO takes the time, let’s not forget, and there are a lot of factors that contribute to a page ranking. So while yes, I highly recommend that you lean on tools to give you insights and make certain things like competitor benchmarking easier.
Don’t expect them to work miracles, people. That was easy. Number eight, tools do not make great babysitters. Hmm. If only we could just press a button and have a software do all the heavy lifting for us. Am I right? But you know what I’m going to say, SEO is an ongoing, constantly evolving, ever confounding process that’s always in flux with Google’s moods.
A tool isn’t going to take care of your website just as a website isn’t going to take care of itself. Sure, there are some tasks that can be automated, but there’s really no such thing as flipping a switch and walking away. SEO is a game of strategy. You need to observe, to test, to go undercover, to use your judgment, to risk a little.
to monitor, none of which can be accomplished if you expect the tool to take care of everything. Number nine, number nine, number nine, they can patch up poor quality pages. Tools cannot patch up poor quality. Tools can and will optimize your poorly written page, but if you wouldn’t want your biggest customer reading it, then you might want to scrap it altogether, even if you’ve quote unquote.
Optimized it. Helpful content is a pretty important ranking factor these days. So you might want to ask yourself if your page is helpful, well written and trustworthy before you even waste your time optimizing it. And just in case you’re wondering, we just released a article about the recent helpful content update, which you can, uh, I will link to in the show notes, but you can also just head over to our GeekSpeak blog to check it out.
Wow, I just felt like this was kind of a short episode, but it felt really long to write it out. But that’s my rant for today. I think that just about covers it. If I made it sound like we hold a big grudge against people who use SEMrush, don’t get me wrong. We are all for people learning the ropes. It just makes our lives easier if you just keep these things in mind.
If you’re interested in learning more about certain SEO or analytics tools, send us a message, and if we get enough interest, maybe we’ll organize a webinar or something to show you our best practices. If that sounds like something you’d be down for, you can DM us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram at Geeky Tech Geeks.
And while you’re there, why not follow, subscribe, and do all the things that make us feel warm and popular and pretty? That’d be great. Thanks, guys. See you next time. See you next month on a next episode of SEO unfiltered.
Are you a marketer who relies heavily on SEO tools to understand what’s going on? Or are you convinced you know everything you need to know about SEO because you’ve been using SEMRush for years and ain’t nobody gonna tell you you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Maybe you should listen to this episode. Over the years, the geeks have encountered many marketing managers with various levels of experience, and we’ve come across the same assumptions, misconceptions, and bad habits over and over again. Now don’t get us wrong, we use tools all the time, so this definitely isn’t an episode bashing the use of these tools. But there are some things we really, really wish people understood about these tools, such as:
- Google doesn’t give third-party tools access to their data.
- Tools tend to focus on one thing and run with it, whereas Google’s ranking factors cover a whole spectrum.
- Over-reliance on tools can give you analysis paralysis.
- You might be drawing the wrong conclusions from your data.
- A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.
- Common sense trumps tools.
- Tools aren’t going to automatically make you rank number 1
- Tools do not make great babysitters
- Tools can’t patch up poor-quality pages
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